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Cafe Society to revisit discussion of social media

By Staff | Apr 3, 2016

The next Cafe Society discussion on April 5 will focus on “The Challenges in Using Social Media to Bolster Inter-generational Communications.” Recent dialog between older members of the community and Shepherd University students has raised questions about how to make the most effective use of this emergent, rapidly evolving means of interaction, and at the same time avoid inherent pitfalls. These informal weekly discussions are held from 08:30 to 10:00 in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University Student Center each Tuesday morning. Pre-registration is not required and there are no fees or charges.

Cafe facilitator Mike Austin said, “The rapidly expanding range of alternative means of communicating, particularly the generic group that we are now calling ‘social media’ has to be viewed with a critical eye. Some assumptions are made by its users, at least those who are the initiators of the messages, that everyone is equally receptive to (or comfortable with) this mode of communication. It is particularly dangerous to assume that it effectively replaces older, tradition means of reaching out to others. Particularly in the case of interaction between different age groups, there are a number of social and psychological aspects that need to be considered. There are cultural mores and conventions that govern how we acknowledge, perceive, prioritize, and react to messages and commensurate differences when message are missed, or are not fully understood. The facility with which these new means of exchanging information can be used, and the inherent spontaneity create an added vulnerability. Thoughtful preparation and evaluation before taking action is as important in communicating as it is in carpentry, where the old adage “measure twice, and cut once” makes a lot of sense.”

He commented further that: “Modern-day emphasis on speed and convenience takes its toll, because it undercuts the fidelity of the messages that we convey. The greatly reduced vocabulary in use and the cryptic shorthand methods particularly in texting often lead to misunderstanding. There is a big difference between frugal use of well-chosen words, and casual ‘stream-of-conscious utterances. The other problem area is computer-driven, cybernetic interventions that think for you and herd your thoughts and impression into pigeonholes to ‘like’ or ‘friend’ someone, etc. It is a little disconcerting when you find yourself responding to a computer-driven message. However, there are scenarios where social media can be very helpful and deepen relationships, or provide timely information, but it is important not to put all of our eggs in one basket and relinquish well drafted email exchanges, unhurried phone calls, and better yet, a thoughtful letter with a stamp on it.”

If you have suggestions for future Cafe Society topics or want more information about the Cafe Society program contact Mike Austin at (304) 876-0598 or michael.austin@frontiernet.net.